After a three-year gap, Ola bike taxis returned to Bengaluru roads on Monday.
Ola’s re-entry to bike-taxi segment is likely to offer cheaper and faster mobility option for commuters. Another firm, Rapido, has been operating bike taxis in the city since 2016. However, transport department maintains that it hasn’t given permission to any firms to operate bike taxis in Bengaluru.
Ola and Uber, which launched the service in Bengaluru in 2016, were forced to discontinue it after a few months as transport officials seized their vehicles. Both the cab aggregators were unavailable for comments.
Sources say 1,000 two-wheelers have already signed up with Ola Bike so far, while Uber has sought the department’s permission to resume the service.
Bengaluru is home to 55 lakh two-wheelers, the second highest in the country after Delhi. The department’s move to legalize bike taxis seems to have hit a roadblock. Last year, the state government formed a committee headed by BMRCL managing director Ajay Seth, but it is yet to take a call.
Transport department principal secretary B Basavaraju said they are yet to receive the committee’s report. “It’s illegal to operate bike taxis in the city. We’ll allow them only after receiving the panel’s report. We’ll have to conduct meetings with various stakeholders before preparing a report. Currently, permission is given only to rental-bikes,” he said.
BMTC and autorickshaw unions are against the proposal as they fear it would affect their revenue. However, many people say bike taxis are the need of the hour as they will help in navigating congested roads.
Bike taxis, which charge Rs 3-Rs 5 per km, are also cheaper than autos and complement the public transport system like Metro and buses in terms of first and last-mile connectivity. However, there are concerns about the safety of women.
The average traffic speed on city roads has dropped to less than 10 kmph, further worsened by a shortage of cabs and autos that refuse to ply in peak hours. Harried by stringent government regulations, city-based bike taxi startups like Heybob, Headlyt, Pillionaire and Zingo were forced to shut in the recent past. At least 10 states, including Gujarat, Punjab, Goa, Haryana, Telangana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Mizoram, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh have bike taxi service.